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The Quick 10: 10 Variations on Tetris

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Everyone's favorite line-building, time-wasting, procrastination aid video game turns 25 on Saturday. Yep, our friend Tetris is a quarter of a century old. Although technology has certainly advanced in 25 years, gameplay really hasn't changed much at all. And why should it? The beauty is in its simplicity. But that's not to say that marketers haven't tried to change the game "“ below, you'll find 10 variations on Tetris that have entered the market over the years. But you'll notice it's the original that still endures.

hatris1. Hatris. In case the plain old blocks were a little too dull for you, Hatris provided you with the opportunity to stack different types of hats instead. Wizard hats, top hats, crowns"¦ whatever the variation was, you had to stack five alike hats in a row to get them to disappear.
2. Faces. I had this one and I loved it. Each block that fell had an element of a face on it and you had to stack the pieces that went together to make the whole face go away and get points. Some of the faces were famous, so you should have had an easier time putting them together"¦ except a misprint in the booklet that went with the game messed up the images of two important people. "The pictures of George Washington Carver and Frederick Douglass (pp. 8 and 18) were inexplicably reversed. Please do not use their images as references for a U.S. History class," the insert explained.

3. Tetris Elements. Picture the design-a-disaster element from Sim City and there you have it. Five game variations offer five ways to destroy your hard work - "Stratosphere" had meteors, "Earthquake" featured tremors, "Tempest" switched between screens at inopportune times, "Ice" had falling icicles and "Fire" had intense heat that would melt rows.

4. Tetris Plus included a little professor guy that you needed to get to the bottom of the screen. The game starts with pre-placed tetrominoes, so it wasn't as easy as just starting the game and letting him drop. There's a decidedly evil element to this game "“ instead of just hitting the top and losing the game like usual, a loss in this game happened when the professor's skull came into contact with the metal spikes at the top of the playing field. Whoops.

well5. Welltris. It was just like Tetris but with different dimensions. Imagine that you're looking down into a well "“ go figure, right? The tetrominoes fell down the sides of the well, giving the player all four sides to work with to get the pieces into position to eliminate lines. And "“ bonus "“ you also got to view "beautiful background scenes of modern Russian culture."
6. Tetris: The GrandMaster was for serious players only. If regular Tetris was just too simple for you, even at level 50, then GrandMaster may have been up your alley. Once you reached a certain level (500, to be exact), the pieces were no longer airborne "“ they just appeared at the lowest level on the screen and the player only has a split second to move it before it was just locked into the place it appeared. The highest level was 999, at which point the player achieved the GrandMaster status.

7. Tetris Worlds included a backstory about a planet called Hadar 4, objects called Tetrions and little beings called Minos. To rescue the Minos from Hadar 4 as it has become uninhabitable, and to do so, you have to "“ well, play Tetris. Their story is a little more convoluted than that, but that's the drift. The fun part comes in with the variations, including "Sticky Tetris," "Fusion Tetris" and "Hot-Line" Tetris.

splash8. Tetris Splash is relatively new compared to the others "“ it just came out in 2007. As you can probably guess, it has a water theme: aquarium-like graphics and watery-sounding music. Players get to choose between saltwater and freshwater and could originally download fish bundles for 62 cents each. Four "décor" packs "“ Pirates, Atlantis, Graveyard and Scuba "“ were also available for $1.87.

9. Tetris Party is the newest addition to the Tetris family and is available via WiiWare for the Wii. I had no idea this existed and now I'm pretty sure I have to have it. You can play in several different modes, even using the Balance Board in one of them, which sounds really hard. You can also play co-op "“ working together to clear lines "“ and Stage Racer, in which the player guides a single tetrimino through a narrow maze without touching any walls.

10. Tetris 1-D. This isn't an official Tetris game, but I kind of got a kick out of it. Check it out for yourself.

Has anyone played any of these? Or do you have fond memories of playing Tetris for days on end? Share in the comments! I can tell you that my cell phone version of Tetris definitely got me through boring lectures in college on multiple occasions.

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istock (blank book) / Taeeun Yoo (cover art)
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literature
12 Fantastic Facts About A Wrinkle in Time
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istock (blank book) / Taeeun Yoo (cover art)

Madeleine L’Engle’s acclaimed science fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time has been delighting readers since its 1962 release. Whether you’ve never had the chance to read this timeless tale or haven’t picked it up in a while, here are some facts that are sure to get you in the mood for a literary journey through the universe—not to mention its upcoming big-screen adaptation.

1. THE AUTHOR’S PERSISTENCE PAID OFF.

She’s a revered writer today, but Madeleine L’Engle’s early literary career was rocky. She nearly gave up on writing on her 40th birthday. L’Engle stuck with it, though, and on a 10-week cross-country camping trip she found herself inspired to begin writing A Wrinkle in Time.

2. EINSTEIN SPARKED L'ENGLE'S INTEREST IN QUANTUM PHYSICS AND TESSERACTS.

L’Engle was never a strong math student, but as an adult she found herself drawn to concepts of cosmology and non-linear time after picking up a book about Albert Einstein. L’Engle adamantly believed that any theory of writing is also a theory of cosmology because “one cannot discuss structure in writing without discussing structure in all life." The idea that religion, science, and magic are different aspects of a single reality and should not be thought of as conflicting is a recurring theme in her work. 

3. L’ENGLE BASED THE PROTAGONIST ON HERSELF.

L’Engle often compared her young heroine, Meg Murry, to her childhood self—gangly, awkward, and a poor student. Like many young girls, both Meg and L’Engle were dissatisfied with their looks and felt their appearances were homely, unkempt, and in a constant state of disarray.

4. IT WAS REJECTED BY MORE THAN TWO DOZEN PUBLISHERS.

L’Engle weathered 26 rejections before Farrar, Straus & Giroux finally took a chance on A Wrinkle in Time. Many publishers were nervous about acquiring the novel because it was too difficult to categorize. Was it written for children or adults? Was the genre science fiction or fantasy? 

5. L’ENGLE DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO CATEGORIZE THE BOOK, EITHER.

To compound publishers’ worries, L’Engle famously rejected these arbitrary categories and insisted that her writing was for anyone, regardless of age. She believed that children could often understand concepts that would baffle adults, due to their childlike ability to use their imaginations with the unknown. 

6. MEG MURRY WAS ONE OF SCIENCE FICTION'S FIRST GREAT FEMALE PROTAGONISTS ...

… and that scared publishers even more. L’Engle believed that the relatively uncommon choice of a young heroine contributed to her struggles getting the book in stores since men and boys dominated science fiction. 

Nevertheless, the author stood by her heroine and consistently promoted acceptance of one’s unique traits and personality. When A Wrinkle in Time won the 1963 Newbury Award, L’Engle used her acceptance speech to decry forces working for the standardization of mankind, or, as she so eloquently put it, “making muffins of us, muffins like every other muffin in the muffin tin.” L’Engle’s commitment to individualism contributed to the very future of science fiction. Without her we may never have met The Hunger Games’s Katniss Everdeen or Divergent’s Tris Prior. 

7. THE MURKY GENRE HELPED MAKE THE BOOK A SUCCESS.

Once A Wrinkle in Time hit bookstores, its slippery categorization stopped being a drawback. The book was smart enough for adults without losing sight of the storytelling elements kids love. A glowing 1963 review in The Milwaukee Sentinel captured this sentiment: “A sort of space age Alice in Wonderland, Miss L’Engle’s book combines a warm story of family life with science fiction and a most convincing case for nonconformity. Adults who still enjoy Alice will find it delightful reading along with their youngsters.” 

8. THE BOOK IS ACTUALLY THE FIRST OF A SERIES.

Although the other four novels are not as well known as A Wrinkle in Time, the “Time Quintet” is a favorite of science fiction fans. The series, written over a period of nearly 30 years, follows the Murry family’s continuing battle over evil forces.

9. IT IS ONE OF THE MOST FREQUENTLY BANNED BOOKS OF ALL TIME.

Oddly enough, A Wrinkle in Time has been accused of being both too religious and anti-Christian. L’Engle’s particular brand of liberal Christianity was deeply rooted in universal salvation, a view that some critics have claimed, “[D]enigrates organized Christianity and promotes an occultic world view.” There have also been objections to the use of Jesus Christ’s name alongside figures like Buddha, Shakespeare, and Gandhi.  Detractors feel that grouping these names together trivializes Christ’s divine nature. 

10. L’ENGLE LEARNED TO SEE THE UPSIDE OF THIS CONTROVERSY.

The author revealed how she felt about all this sniping in a 2001 interview with The New York Times. She brushed it aside, saying, “It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it. Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, 'Ah, the hell with it.' It's great publicity, really.'' 

11. THE SCIENCE FICTION HAS INSPIRED SCIENCE FACTS.

American astronaut Janice Voss once told L’Engle that A Wrinkle in Time inspired her career path. When Voss asked if she could bring a copy of the novel into space, L’Engle jokingly asked why she couldn’t go, too. 

Inspiring astronauts wasn’t L’Engle’s only out-of-this-world achievement. In 2013 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) honored the writer’s memory by naming a crater on Mercury’s south pole “L’Engle.” 

12. A STAR-STUDDED MOVIE ADAPTATIONS WILL HIT THEATERS IN 2018.

Although L’Engle was famously skeptical of film adaptations of the novel, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay (13th; Selma) is bringing a star-filled version of the book to the big screen next year. Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, and Zach Galifianakis are among the film's stars. It's due in theaters on March 9, 2018.

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Audible / Chris Sanders
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entertainment
Listen to an Exclusive Preview of the New X-Files Audio Drama
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Audible / Chris Sanders

In April, Audible announced that it would be releasing an audio drama based on The X-Files, a sort of prequel to the latest TV revival in audio form. Now The X-Files: Cold Cases is finally here, and you can listen to two exclusive clips from it below.

Complete with voicing by members of the original cast, the plot takes place between 2008's (terrible) The X-Files: I Want to Believe and last year's revival series. In “An Old Acquaintance,” you’ll hear Agent Mulder and get a sneak peek into the appearance of a mysterious figure with a prosthetic arm. (Alex Krycek, perhaps?)

Obviously, the best part of the original X-Files is the banter and simmering tension between Agents Mulder and Scully, so here’s another tidbit featuring Scully trying to prod Mulder into their scheduled FBI Reinstatement Training. You know you've been craving those snarky Mulder comebacks.

The four-plus hour audio drama is no replacement for the TV show, however. You just can’t substitute David Duchovny’s smirking face. From the previews, it seems like the script is a little cheesy, and the actors won’t be getting any awards for their performances. But then again, The X-Files never shied away from camp.

David Duchovny speaks into a recording studio mic.
Audible / Chris Sanders

The audio is out there, and you can get it for $25 on Audible or free with a 30-day trial membership.

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